Former Fed-Ex Driver Convicted In Manhattan Federal Court Of Using Truck To Assist Two Separate Drug Rings, And Of Witness Tampering And Extortion
While On Pretrial Release, Edgar Encarnacion Located And Threatened, On Facebook And In Person, Family Members Of A Man Who Stole Drug Money From Him
Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that EDGAR ENCARNACION, a/k/a “Edgar Encarnacion-Lafontaine,” a/k/a “Tapon,” 47, was convicted on December 11 in Manhattan federal court of conspiring to distribute marijuana, conspiring to distribute cocaine, conspiring to commit extortion, extortion, and conspiring to commit witness tampering. As a result of his conviction, ENCARNACION faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison and a maximum sentence of life in prison.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “A jury convicted Edgar Encarnacion of conspiring with a massive marijuana trafficking ring, and using his FedEx truck to transport large amounts of cocaine from California to the New York City area. While he was on pretrial release for the marijuana charges, Encarnacion threatened family members of another FedEx driver. Witness tampering and extortion will not be tolerated, and the jury has properly held Encarnacion accountable for his crimes.”
ENCARNACION’s charges initially arose out of a multi-year investigation titled “Operation Green Venom,” a coordinated multi-agency investigation that was led by Homeland Security Investigations, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE HSI”), and first announced in October 2010. More than 60 defendants have been convicted in United States v. Manuel Geovanny Rodriguez-Perez, et al., 10 Cr. 905 (LTS), and related cases. Those defendants include former Rock-a-fella music founder Kareem Burke, a/k/a “Biggs,” who received a sentence of five years in prison, High Times Magazine editor Matthew Woodstock Stang, a/k/a “Magazine Guy,” and Oscar Rodriguez, the cousin of the organization’s leader, who was convicted of racketeering and marijuana related charges and sentenced to 20 years in prison earlier this year.
According to the complaints, Indictments, and the evidence at trial, in 2010, EDGAR ENCARNACION agreed to use his FedEx truck to smuggle marijuana for Manuel Geovanny Rodriguez-Perez, a/k/a “Manuel Rodriguez,” a/k/a “Shorty,” the leader of a Washington Heights-based marijuana trafficking organization. During that same period, ENCARNACION was working with a separate cocaine-trafficking organization. ENCARNACION smuggled up to multi-kilogram quantities of cocaine in the sleeper area of his truck as he drove cross-country from California to Woodbridge, New Jersey. In December 2010, a man who was assigned to drive with ENCARNACION (the “Co-Driver”) stole $30,000 of several hundred thousand dollars of drug money that ENCARNACION had agreed to transport for the cocaine organization. About a week later, ENCARNACION was arrested in connection with the marijuana-trafficking investigation, Operation Green Venom. ENCARNACION was released on bail on those charges.
In early 2012, ENCARNACION began a campaign intended to force the Co-Driver to return the drug money he had stolen. ENCARNACION employed Facebook accounts set up in women’s names – including the name of one of the Co-Driver’s family members – to reach out to the Co-Driver’s in-laws. In these messages, ENCARNACION warned that the cocaine trafficking organization was “equipped with dangerous people who will do anything for money,” and threatened that the Co-Driver’s family in the Dominican Republic was “the most vulnerable, but nobody will be spared.” ENCARNACION posted photographs of the Co-Driver and his family members, including his three young daughters, on one of the Facebook accounts. In addition to using these Facebook accounts to threaten the Co-Driver’s family members, ENCARNACION used them to send disparaging messages about his ex-wife to her current in-laws.
During the same period in which he was making the Facebook threats, ENCARNACION also caused a telephone call to be made to one of the Co-Driver’s relatives in the Dominican Republic, during which she was warned that if the Co-Driver did not return the money, “blood was going to be spilled.” When these efforts did not cause the Co-Driver to return the money, ENCARNACION then went to the Co-Driver’s mother’s house, and demanded that she tell her son to call him about the money. During this visit, ENCARNACION also showed her a photograph of her son and grand-daughters. A week later, ENCARNACION left a threatening letter in front of the Co-Driver’s mother’s door, which reported that there would be violent retaliation if the Co-Driver did not return the money and warned, “Avoid the ‘law,’ otherwise the family in the [Dominican Republic] will not be saved.”
The Co-Driver’s family used an Internet search to discover that ENCARNACION was on pretrial release in connection with Operation Green Venom, and contacted federal authorities. The Co-Driver then agreed to assist the investigation by recording telephone conversations with ENCARNACION and his associate, co-defendant Juan Peralta, a/k/a “Johnny Jay,” who pled guilty to threats-related charges. After approximately six additional weeks of investigation – during which the threats continued through Superstorm Sandy – ENCARNACION was arrested at his residence on new charges, and remanded.
ENCARNACION, 47, was convicted of one count of cocaine conspiracy, which carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison and a maximum sentence of life in prison; one count of marijuana conspiracy, which carries a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison and a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison; one count of conspiracy to commit extortion, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison; one count of extortion, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison; and one count of witness tampering, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. Because the defendant was on pretrial release for all but one of the counts, he faces a potential additional penalty of 40 years – 10 years for each count. The maximum potential sentences in this case are prescribed by Congress and are provided for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the Court.
Mr. Bharara praised the outstanding investigative work of ICE HSI.
The prosecution of the cases arising from “Operation Green Venom” is being overseen by the Office’s Violent and Organized Crime Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Amie N. Ely and Emil Bove conducted the trial.